Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has claimed that loanee midfielder Martin Odegaard can become one of the world’s best players in future, as speculation over the possibility of a permanent move to north London rages on. The 22-year-old joined Arsenal on a six-month deal from Real Madrid during the January transfer window and has left a big impression on Arteta during his first month at the club.
Odegaard started the season playing a bit-part role under Zinedine Zidane in the Spanish capital, but saw his first-team opportunities tail off before being shipped out on loan to the Gunners.
Since joining Arsenal, he has played 118 minutes across three Premier League matches without claiming a goal or an assist.
Despite his lack of tangible contributions thus far, Arteta has been vocal in his admiration of Odegaard.
The Spaniard has been tipped to pursue a permanent move for the Norwegian playmaker in the summer after the latter refused to rule out the prospect of a transfer away from Los Blancos after Sunday’s win over Leeds United.
“You never know what happens, but first of all my focus is about the rest of the season,” Odegaard told Norwegian station TV2 when quizzed on his future.
“Hopefully [I’ll] help the team, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Arteta added further fuel to the fire ahead of Thursday’s Europa League knockout stage clash with Benfica, backing Odegaard to become a world-beater over the course of his career and hailing the youngster’s early contributions.
“Well, he’s got the potential [to be one of the best],” the Gunners boss told reporters. “I followed him very closely when he was at Real Sociedad and he was really impressive over there for long periods.
“He had a really successful season over there and that’s one of the reasons why I was so convinced that he’s a player for us. He’s a player that I really like and, as you say, still has huge potential to become even better.”
Opening up on his impact at the club so far, Arteta revealed that Odegaard has settled in extremely well, claiming that he is well-liked by those around him and suggesting that he has emerged as something of a leader despite his tender years.
“All positive from my first conversations with him,” Arteta continued. “He’s a really focused and humble boy that was really keen to join.
“He’s a really nice guy, the players like him, the staff like him, he’s easy going, a really hard worker and I’ve been very impressed with his leadership.
“He looks a little bit calm, but on the pitch he’s got something about him.”
It remains to be seen whether Arsenal will pursue a permanent move for Odegaard at the end of the season.
Transfer chief Edu had previously announced his intention to source a new creative midfielder, and if the Norwegian can continue to impress during his spell in north London he could well be identified as the long-term answer to the club’s problems.
The Gunners have struggled to fill the boots of former midfielder Mesut Ozil since the 2014 World Cup winner was dropped from the first-team in March of last year, but suddenly have two emerging talents on their hands in Odegaard and Hale End product Emile Smith Rowe.
If the club decides to shell out in order to capture the former Heerenveen star on a permanent basis, the pair could be in line to lead the attacking charge under Arteta for many years to come.